By Mark Kersteen - June 10th, 2015
There is a divide within organizations and marketing departments, but it’s quickly going away. This is the divide between what is quantifiable, and what isn’t.
Marketing Becomes (More) Measurable:
As Chris Helle, Executive Director of Brand Marketing and Strategy for Comcast, told us at last year’s Incite Summit: East
“When all of us probably started our marketing careers, there was a lot more judgement than data.”
- Chris Helle, Executive Director of Brand Marketing and Strategy, Comcast
There are plenty of things marketers have been preoccupied with that weren’t quantifiable until recently. Take brand, for example. Few would argue that a strong, recognizable and positive brand image isn’t a vital component to many a company’s success.
However, there was no way to see how brand awareness led directly to dollars and cents. You could run surveys and focus groups, which would give you a single, small reference point within an expanse of potential customers. These only allowed for inferences. You never really knew for sure.
A more timely example might be social media. Can you remember when ‘having a social media presence’ meant ‘having a Facebook page’? Yet as social media has become more measurable, it’s become more accountable to the bottom line and thus more accepted as an integral part of marketing. As a director at a leading research firm told us, “If your social media agency tells you there’s no ROI in social, your first response should be ‘next’.”
The Push for Accountability
Martin Sorrell, CEO and Founder of WPP, attributes this push for financial accountability to the financial crisis. CFOs are especially wary after the crash, and want to be certain they aren’t throwing their money away on fancy-sounding marketing that doesn’t work. In a recent LinkedIn post, he predicts that the reign of the finance folks over current business practices is going to wane, and that
“the accountants will only hold sway over the chief marketing officers in the short-term.”
- Martin Sorrell, CEO and Founder, WPP
We’d agree—but CMOs should be the ones pushing themselves to become directly accountable for their marketing’s ROI. As we found in our survey, only 16.01% of marketers said that measuring the ROI of their marketing was their top priority.
But marketers should embrace measurement. Not only because it’s a way to guide continual improvement, because it’s the fastest way to grow the entire discipline of marketing.
Numbers are Power
Digital technology, at the best of times, can allow us to track every customer interaction with (and even exposure to) a brand. You could, potentially, look at your whole audience and find out which messages they were served, where those messages sent them, and how they finally converted.
With all this information in marketers’ pockets, it’s easy to trace back along the customer lifecycle to find an ROI. Even things that shouldn’t even be quantifiable, like sentiment and awareness, can be understood on a large scale through a combination of social listening, surveys, and interviews.
If everything can be measured, and the CMO can be held accountable for the return on every marketing decision, then their role can evolve into one of strategic guidance over the entire customer-facing side of the business.
Measurement Means More Creativity
Measurement is fiscally conservative, but it can allow for unbounded creativity throughout the marketing department. Before we had (or, at least began to have) the capability to comprehensively measure ROI, trying something new and unexplored was an absolute blind risk.
Of course, doing anything differently is always going to come with some inherent danger of failure. But the real risk comes when you start something and, whether it works or not, continue to grow it regardless. That’s how you end up with large, ineffective marketing initiatives that suck the life out of your department and discourage you from testing anything new.
Measuring everything and finding ROI might sound restrictive, but it should allow for much more room to be creative. Marketers, under the guidance of the CMO, should have the freedom to experiment, as long as they can measure whether it works. Try seeding a hashtag on social. Do something innovative on mobile. Shake up your content by doing videos or podcasts. It’s only in your interest to be adventurous. You’ll fail, maybe even most of the time, but now you can be sure when you succeed.
Not Soft, Not Hard, Just What Works
Measurement also means the end of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ disciplines. When brand marketing’s value can be measured as effectively as sales or customer service’s, the only differentiator between their overall worth to a company will be their performance.
The more holistic (and sometimes, fluffy) sides of business—marketing, PR, communications—will definitively show what they bring to the CEO’s table. This is a lot of pressure, and measurement capabilities aren’t nearly complex enough yet to offer equal footing to something as straightforward as sales.
But when everything can be measured to the same degree of accuracy, then we can have absolute fairness. Disciplines considered ‘good to have’ will either become ‘must haves’, or they won’t exist at all. We aren’t there yet. The field of data analysis is growing rapidly, but it will be a while before we’re able to make better sense of the ever-growing complexity created by a multitude of channels. There will always be something new to learn, but I have to believe that we’ll catch up. At least, to a point. In the meantime, marketers should be measuring everything they can count, so that their organizations can be sure to count on them.
November 2015, The Marriott Brooklyn Bridge
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